Curses, Demons, and the Occult. While most commonly found in horror films, these elements can also be found in other genres. Their meanings vary from culture to culture. There is a new film from Japan that deals with all three subjects, but not in a way that you might be used to.
In The Divine Protector - Master Salt Begins, members of a high school occult club discover a way to summon “Master Salt”, a protector of the Divine, repealer of evil, and eliminator of curses. One of the members of the club has had a number of strange and scary incidents that the club determines are due to a curse. They summon Master Salt to help get rid of the curse. Master Salt does as advertised. The club decides that there are many people who could use Master Salt’s help and they work together to help eliminate curses and heal those affected by them.
The Divine Protector - Master Salt Begins is a Buddhist morality play. It is a female driven story that is well acted, excellently crafted, and solidly written. I am glad that I watched the subtitled version with the original dialog. Rin Kijima delivers a skillful performance as Master Salt, played with such passion and strength that you can’t wait for her to appear. Her theme song is catchy too. By the third time I heard it, I was happy as I knew Master Salt was about to lay the smack down. There is a wonderful balance and honesty to her character that is amplified by Kijima’s performance.
The story plays out like an anthology with four self-contained subplots dealing with different curses. These curses take various supernatural forms and carry out selfish, evil deeds. There is a man who uses a phone scam to prey on the elderly, an abusive husband, an egotistical playboy, and a jealous classmate. These curses are exposed by Master Salt and removed from the people they are plaguing. In many movies, we would see the hero just kill the evil, but Master Salt rarely takes that path. Instead, she teaches the curse what it is doing wrong. She also teaches the person about what they did to allow the curse to inhabit them. The strong religious overtones may be hard to relate to, particularly in Western culture, but the story’s intention is one of positivity and redemption. The special effects were a bit campy but given the budget and type of film this is, I found amusement in their quality. The cinematography and color usage was beautiful whether it was just a scene in a hallway or someone walking through a park. It is a gorgeous film.
With all that is going on in the world, we need more positive films and The Divine Protector - Master Salt is definitely that. Director Hiroshi Akabane takes care in addressing dark subjects without turning bleak. While some may not enjoy the film due to the religious foundation, many will find a lot of fun with this fantastical tale. I know I did and so did my wife. The Divine Protector - Master Salt Begins is out in select theaters now and will soon be on VOD.